Wednesday, May 21, 2014


The Popularity of Poetry

Neil L. Jamieson, Understanding Vietnam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993; rpt. 1995), p. 108 (footnote omitted):
It is very difficult for Westerners, especially Americans, to apprehend how significant poetry can be as an expressive mechanism in society. For many of us poetry has connotations of elitism, obscurity, impracticality. Few of us read poetry, and fewer still have a real appreciation of it. But in Vietnam this is not the case. Many Vietnamese read poetry with enjoyment, commit it to memory, and recite poems to each other with unfeigned enthusiasm. Everyday speech is liberally sprinkled with poetic allusions. Even the poor and the illiterate imbibe deeply of a rich oral tradition that has incorporated much that originated in the written literature of the educated elite. Poetry has been and remains much more popular and important in Vietnam than in the United States.
Hat tip: Jim K., who pointed me to the quotation in Morris Berman, "Thoughts on a Rainy Day."

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